Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Phnom Penh

The main reasons I want to come to Phnom Penh were the "Killing Fields" and The "Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum" (S21). After visiting them I found them so moving I thought I would talk about them separately rather than just casually slip them into a paragraph about Phnom Penh. However doing this meant that the 3 days I spent here look fairly pathetic as all I did was fire guns and casually look around the Royal palace as a means to kill some time before we headed to the Genocide Museum. Nevertheless here is a outline of my time in Cambodia's capital city Phnom Penn.

It absolutely chucked it town as we arrived into Phenom Penn and going across the city to our hostel with Tony, who turned out to be our personal Tuk Tuk driver for the 3 days we were there, meant we were soaked when we eventually made it to the hostel. We stayed at the "Lazy Fish" a chilled out little lake side hostel made entirely from wood and was possibly the coolest place I have stayed so far and the vibe there was defiantly lazy.

Day one I woke up in a pool of sweat. We did not have air conditioning, only a fan and the fact the room was made of just wood meant it was actually a sauna in the morning and was at least twice as hot inside the room as it was out. I quickly got up and out and started talking to Tony the Tuk Tuk driver. I went through what I wanted to do in Phnom Penh and he gave me a price for taking me and Tommy around all these places.

First place we went was the army base 30 minutes outside of the city. Now I am not really sure what the deal is with this place. But the general gist was that Tony bribed the Army to let us into their shooting range to try out some of the guns there. Tony had previously quoted me $250 to blow up a cow with an RPG. While this was something I would have never ever really have considered doing I was pleased I had been given the opportunity as it had therefore confirmed the urban myth that it is possible to blow up a cow with an RPG in Cambodia if you are willing to pay for it.

After firing the M16 the other day in 'Nam, I thought it was only right that I also tried the AK47. Prices here were a lot more reasonable and for $40 I shot 30 rounds with the AK47. There were a large amount of chickens running around the place for some strange reason. But that all became clear when the solider said that for the measly price of $15 I could shoot at a chicken. It was at this point I realized I was not some sort of blood thirty murder as the thought of shooting a chicken for my own pleasure made me feel terribly guilty so I politely declined. Once again the gun was mentally loud but as the ear defenders they had provided me with here were a far better standard than those in Vietnam I was left with not even the slightest ringing in my ear.

Unfortunately once again my accuracy was appalling and have no idea if I hit the targets or not. Had I been a cruel bastard and forked out the $15 to shot the chicken with the AK47 I don't think I would have hit it anyway. So I thought I would have one last go at firing a gun but this time one that would give me a bit more accuracy. I eventually settled on the MP5. This gun would not only give me more accuracy but was also my weapon of choice in my favorite Xbox 360 throughout my University days in "Ghost Recon". This made me very excited and allowed me to bring to life all those 100's of hours I had spent in front of the projector screen with Ciaran in second year. The MP5 was ok, it wasn't as fun as the M16 and AK47 and I didn't even need ear defenders for it but it was definitely the coolest looking gun out of the 3 I fired.

From here we went to the Killing fields which were just unbelievable and then on to the Genocide Museum. However it turned out we had missed the 3pm showing of the documentary they showed each day so thought it best we skip the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum till tomorrow. Instead Tony wanted to take us to the museum of Angkor. I really could not be arsed to walk around looking at old pots and bits of old statues to his surprise so we opted for a trip to the local market to pick up a few nick-knacks as Tommy wanted a scarf to keep the dirt out and I need a new pair of Ray Bans as I had sat on my earlier that day.

That night we didn't really do a lot and just ended up going for a curry with the biggest mix of western nations I am yet to encounter. There was English, American, Australian, Canadian and one Pole. It was quite cool having all the different nationality around the table and quite obviously conversation steered in the direction of all our different perceptions of America. Luckily the American couple weren't a particularly patriotic couple so no offense was caused.

The next day was basically spent killing time till we could go to the Genocide Museum. So in the morning we went to the Grand Palace and Silver Pagoda where we casually looked around and got harassed by a gay couple which wasn't nice. We didn't even end up going in the Silver Pagoda in the end as we both could not be bothered with the place. We just sat in the court yard of the palace drink some Pepsi's till the mid day closing time. We then had some lunch and headed of to the Genocide Museum which was also unbelievable.

I was beginning to like Cambodia and starting to regret the fact we were cutting our time down here so much. I liked the people I liked the place and I liked the sort of lawless feel of the place. Anything seemed to go and it was definitely the least developed country I had ever been to with lots of street kids, stray dogs and mud tracks instead of roads, I defiantly felt like I was traveling here compared to the easy ride I had in Japan. I was also surprised about how readily available drugs were and were advertised in cafes and bars in much the same way they were in Amsterdam. While I have always been aware that drugs have been all around me in the South East Asian countries I have been to so far, no other place seemed to be so open about the selling of them. Anyway, Phnom Penh was cool and I was now looking forward to traveling up the north of the country to see Siem Reap.